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Laura Seitz, Deseret News
David Madsen and his son, Josh, golf at Old Mill Golf Course in Salt Lake City on Friday. Josh's essay is a finalist in the Golf Channel's Father's Day contest.

It was an offhand comment. Just something a father tells his son after the ball takes a wicked hop and lands in a water hazard.

The shot started beautifully, likely in the range of 300 yards at Eaglewood Golf Course in North Salt Lake.

But it ended in the water.

As dismay settled over 27-year-old Josh Madsen, his father and regular golfing buddy, David, put his hand on Josh's shoulder.

"You know, son, even perfect shots are out of our control. It's not fair. Smile, pick up your clubs and take the drop. The game's not over yet," David said.

As they walked to the cart, he added, "Heck, just ask your mom about it."

Smile, pick up your clubs and take the drop.

That's golf speak for a life lesson: Life isn't fair, so roll with it.

"Bad things happen to good people," Josh Madsen says. "The one you love gets cancer."

The one you love. As in Kim Madsen, Josh's mother and David's wife, who was diagnosed with ovarian cancer about four years ago and continues to fight after multiple regimens of chemotherapy.

She's still an avid gardener and teaches water yoga to women in her pool. And she'll keep doing that until the end, David Madsen says.

If you take a solid fighter, like Kim, a few encouraging words from David and wrap them into a beautifully touching essay written by Josh, you have one of the top five finalists for a golfing dad's dream trip to St. Andrews, Scotland, sponsored by the Golf Channel.

Josh Madsen's essay about the life lesson David Madsen taught him at Eaglewood Golf Course will be posted online today, the beginning of the Golf Channel's Father's Day contest.

Fans of the Madsens, who are from Centerville, can go online to www.golfchannel.com and vote for Josh's essay among the other four finalists.

The winning announcement will be made online and on the Golf Channel on Father's Day during the final round of the U.S. Open, which is being held at Torrey Pines, in San Diego.

One of the five finalists, which were selected from a field of about 6,000 entries, will go on an all-expenses-paid trip to St. Andrews, viewed as a golfing mecca. According to promotional information about the club, there's so much golf history there, the New Course is more than a century old.

Winners will get to play a round on the Old Course.

The Madsens are "jazzed" about the possibility, David said.

Neither dad nor son have ever really won anything, and they haven't traveled as much as they would like.

So a trip to the U.S. Open is a big deal by itself for the two men, who play golf at least every other week.

Though Josh's essay landed the Madsens a chance to travel across the pond to Scotland, it means much more than the prize.

"Of course, I cried," said David. "As a father, you teach so many things and you wonder which lessons come home."

"Offhand comments can be life-changing," he said. "Fathers can have that kind of influence."

And golf just happens to be the way that influence comes through. The game provides for some father-son bonding, says Josh, who picked it up about six years ago when his dad bought him a set of clubs.

"Every round, my dad and I enjoy talking to each other," Josh said. "We confide in each other. My dad is losing his better half and life partner."

But golf lets the men get away for a few hours, a small escape from the awfulness of cancer and its treatments.

"We've been told there is no cure right now. All we can do is maintain life," David Madsen said. "We're going to maintain life and quality of life as much as we possibly can."

The choice is crawl into bed and die or you can live life and get what you can out of it, he says.

That sounds just like giving a smile, picking up your clubs and taking the drop.

Because the game's not over yet.

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